Revitalizing London’s Finsbury Avenue Square

Lighting Design and Application

The east side of London has experienced significant public space improvements over the past decade. Public spaces in London and worldwide are being rethought and redesigned for pedestrians. Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM) designed the new Finsbury Avenue Square in 2001. A series of public space renovations within the Broadgate Financial District have revitalized this area of the city. The Broadgate district is quickly becoming the center of the east side of London. A thoughtful redesign The Finsbury Avenue Square was seen as a dark and unwelcoming plaza that people avoided at all hours of the day. SOM’s redesign is centered around an intricate lighting installation built into a matrix on the ground. Over 100,000 LED lights and 650 fixtures illuminate a variety of scenes during the day and night.


Finsbury Avenue Square; credit: Google Earth

These color changing LED lights provide numerous color choices. Scenes are illuminated through frosted glass strips as pedestrians walk across the plaza in a variety of scenes. Subtle color changes to dynamic light shows activate this space. Cool blues and apple greens mix with intense reds and purples to generate a variety of moods which are reflected in the adjacent buildings’ glass windows.

Finsbury Avenue Square in the daylight; photo credit: Amir Schlezinger

The square is a now a representative landmark Visitors can come back throughout the year to experience Finsbury Avenue Square during different seasons. During fall the yellow from the leaves works differently with the pulsing lights. Even more impressive is the glow which is created on the ground from melting winter snow  and rain.
Finsbury Avenue Sqaure. Photo by Lewis Foti

Finsbury Avenue Sqaure. Photo by Lewis Foti

Lighting isn’t the only thing to check out while visiting. A sculpture piece named ‘Rush Hour’ by American sculpture George Segal portrays six people as they walk through the daily grind of a worker’s commute. This is appropriately placed here as the square is surrounded by a bustling financial district.
Finsbury Avenue Square sculpture; photo credit: Amir Schlezinger

Finsbury Avenue Square sculpture; photo credit: Amir Schlezinger

True to the intent of the city and designers, the square has been revitalized. Local events populate the space. Now ahabitable public space, people are using this space for daily lunches and civic events. Action Aid has set up booths during dreary days to boost public emotion. BT artboxes have been displayed, engaging the public in visual communications. Table tennis events are hosted here. There has even been an appearance by Sydney’s dance company as part of city festivals. Invites people to engage The space is designed equally as well as it is used. The design has taken cues from the sustainability goals of the Broadgate developers. LED lights reduce energy consumption, water is harvested, tree canopy is introduced, and recycling efforts are in place. The site has also transformed from a sunken garden feel to a level plaza which invites people to engage and play with the lighting. One of the lighting schemes invites users to follow a maze-like lighting band as it traces around the squares surface. Below: Finsbury Avenue Square film produced for MBLD Even more intriguing is the way that seating is arranged on the square. The glass strips which extend from the main matrix protrude from the ground and hold each of the benches in the air. These LED-lit supports are a great source of light. Certainly the designers have not only introduced a new engaging space to the city of London. They have also created a space which connects users to a variety of other open spaces. With entries and exits on each side of the square people are connected to Finsbury Square Gardens, Devonshire Row, Finsbury Circus and Broadgate Circle, which is currently undergoing a revitalization of its own. The designers have been recognized worldwide for their ingenious remake of a common underused public space. Chalk-up one more victory for public spaces. You may also be interested in: Top 10 Public Squares of the World Article written by Cameron Rodman.

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